PORT TOWNSEND — Arts and culture groups based at Fort Worden Historical State Park are getting a significant rent break for the next 25 years and in exchange have agreed to make improvements to the historic buildings at the park.
Eight arts and culture nonprofit groups that use fort facilities have been granted new 25-year leases — with no rent — in exchange for a commitment to make capital improvements to the buildings at the site, many with significant maintenance issues.
The cost of the capital improvements is projected to cost more than rent would have, said Robert Birman, executive director of Centrum, one of the groups housed at Fort Worden. But with the combined efforts of the eight nonprofits, Birman said there were more opportunities for grants and philanthropic gifts.
“I think this will open doors to new philanthropy,” Birman said Friday.
“Specifically, we’re looking at large foundations and/or family foundations. This is an opportunity to get in front of some people independently we wouldn’t have been able to.”
Based on a study he commissioned, Birman said the deferred maintenance costs of the buildings at the park was roughly $30 million.
The eight organizations — Centrum, Copper Canyon Press, Madrona MindBody Institute, Northwind Art, Port Townsend School of Woodworking, KPTZ Radio Port Townsend, Corvidae Press and Rainshadow Recording — are collectively calling themselves the Creative Alliance at Fort Worden.
“What’s exciting to me is the idea of going to some fairly large foundations that independently we’re not reaching,” Birman said.
The organization has no plans to formally incorporate, Birman said, but the directors of the alliance will work together to seek funding as a collective group, rather than as a small, individual nonprofit.
Birman said the group plans to direct grants and financials through the Fort Worden Foundation, a separate nonprofit which supports the park.
Previously, Centrum’s lease was never for more than three years, Birman said, but the alliance was able to negotiate with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority, the agency that manages the park with Washington State Parks. Having a 25-year lease means those organizations can focus on providing programs to the public, Birman said, without having to worry about rent.
According to a press release from the alliance, 17 buildings are covered by the new lease terms, and based on an independent appraisal commissioned by the state, 14 of these are Class D facilities, meaning they suffer from severe deferred maintenance.
“This is historic,” Birman said in the release, adding that the group’s investments “will guarantee the possibility that the cultural programs and facilities that define this place, and our community of artists, will be here 50 to 100 years from now.”
Some of the groups, including Centrum, Northwind Art and the woodworking school, will move into newly refurbished buildings, giving them additional space.
“We’re excited to bring significant and collective resources to bear,” said Teresa Verraes, executive director of Northwind Art, “to not only solidify the Creative Alliance’s continual presence at the Fort for many years to come, but to expand our programs, revitalize and restore the historic programming facilities at the Park.”
The Wheeler Theater and McCurdy Pavilion are not part of the agreement, the alliance said, and will remain rental facilities for community use under the management of Fort Worden Hospitality.
Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at email@example.com.